Minimum Quality Standards For Science or Engineering Projects for ACSEF
Minimum Quality Standards for ACSEF Projects*
*adapted from Synopsis Championship
Projects that do not meet minimum quality standards are ineligible for competition.
If an application is received and we feel the project is in need of improvement then we will make suggestions via email to student and teacher for improvement.
MANDATORY: check that your project is NOT on the projects to avoid list
- Types of Science Fair Projects:
- Science Project: investigates the effects of changes or answers the question "Why?"
- Engineering Project: solves a need or problem, and includes measurements of success.
- Product Testing Project: tests and compares similar items using measurable endpoints.
- Demonstration Project: shows simply how something that is already established works such as a home made computer [not accepted at ACSEF].
- A PROJECT LOGBOOK is mandatory. See link for sample
2. Project clearly defines a testable question that is a question that can be answered by an experiment or other means of data collection to obtain numerical data. What is the effect of X on Y?
(For example, ‘what is the effect of a change in the amount of sand mixed into soil on the growth in length of carrot roots? - X is the amount of sand to soil and Y is the length of the carrot root).
3. Project lists a minimum of 3-5 Bibliography references showing the student has done a literature review of projects related to the topic the student proposes to investigate. Often you can get these references by doing a Google search of your testable question.
4. Project has well written Hypothesis - that is your best estimate of what will happen based on the knowledge obtained from the bibliography search. If _____(insert the experimental variable) then ___ (insert what you expect to happen).
(For example, QUESTION: What is the effect of a change in the amount of sand in the soil on the growth in length of carrot roots? HYPOTHESIS: If carrots are grown in containers of top soil, sand, and various % mixtures of each, then the length of the carrot roots from tip to top will be equal to the % of soil to sand mixed into the top soil.)
5. Project must include these aspects in the Experimental design
• Project has a control (a "standard" group) to which all test groups will be compared.
(For example with our sample question and hypothesis, 10 carrots will be grown in 100% top soil (the normal growth medium) with 0% sand (the not normal growth medium).
Science Project minimum quality requirements.
• Project has adequate test groups where only one variable differs from the "control" group. Each test group should contain a minimum of 5 of the test item. In our example we’ve used 10 of the test items (carrot seeds).
(For example with our sample question and hypothesis,
Test group Set A - 10 carrot seeds will be grown in 80% top soil and 20% sand
Test group Set B - 10 carrot seeds will be grown in 60% top soil and 40% sand
Test group Set C - 10 carrot seeds will be grown in 40% top soil and 60% sand
Test group Set D - 10 carrot seeds will be grown in 20% top soil and 80% sand
Test group Set E - 10 carrot seeds will be grown in 0% top soil and 100% sand
Control Group – 10 carrot seeds will be grown in 100% top soil and 0% sand
• Plan to change only one variable in each test cycle. However, change the variable in several ways
(For example, we've used increments of 20% change with each of the groups - and therefore have several different test groups containing % of soil versus % of sand etc. ).
• Define the measurable endpoint(s).
(For example for our example, the length of the carrots from root tips to root top in each test group after 6 weeks of growing time).This example shows what is being measured and how long the experiment will go on.
• Data collection measurements in metric units when possible. This goes into the Log Book.
• Plan enough time to repeat the test more than once to see if your results are reproducible. What if I don’t have 6 more weeks to do this? Well that is actually easy – to save time set up 3-5 identical sets of test groups with a control – in other words it would be the same as if your entire class were doing this experiment to pool the data. Simultaneously each lab table group would set up Sets A-E and Control as described above.
Engineering Project minimum quality requirements.
- A PROJECT LOGBOOK is mandatory.
- Clearly define the problem or need the engineering project will solve.
(For example, A common problem in the world that needs to be solved is that there is a worldwide need for abundant and clean fresh water supply in inland or coastal drought areas. I will re-design the most common portable water filter and make it with cheaper more reliable materials that can be packaged and delivered to remote areas and re-assembled.).
- Project lists a minimum of 3-5 Bibliography references showing the student has done a literature review of projects related to the topic the student proposes to investigate.
(For example, this would involve the student doing a Google search of the problem or need to determine what others have done on the topic or related topic.
The references will help a student gain prior knowledge of the topic. This will also inform a student learn if their engineering design has already been tested and alert the student to make some changes to the question so it is unique).
- List design criteria and design constraints
• Describe the physical and functional characteristics of the design (shape, weight, operation, etc.).
• Describe the design limitations (cost, time, available materials, etc.).
- Clearly state success criteria. What will you measure to see if your design worked?
(Example: dirty, water with a measurable amount of solutes and bacteria will be delivered on one side of the filter and the number of solutes and bacterial count will be measurably reduced in the water that comes out the other side).
6. Report measurements in metric units where possible.
For those of you interested in Engineering Projects check this online resource for students considering a degree in engineering. They have created this comprehensive, research-based site specifically for prospective engineering students and their goal is to give you all the information you need to make smart decisions about your education and prepare you for your career as an engine
7. Follow this format:
* Background or Problem to be Addressed:Describe a brief background of your subject or topic of consideration, and the problem your project is trying to address.
*Engineering Goal:The need/goal should be described in a simple statement that includes what you are designing (the product), who it is for (customer), and what it does (function). The engineering goal template is: “The design and construction of a (product) for (customer) to do (function).”
*Design Criteria and Constraints:Criteria define the product’s physical and functional characteristics (shape, size, weight, speed, ruggedness, and ease of manufacture). Constraints are factors that limit the engineer’s flexibility (cost & time).
*Evaluate alternative designs:Your research into possible solutions to a defined problem will reveal what has already been done by others to satisfy similar needs. You should consider at least two or three alternative designs and consider using available technology, modifying current designs, or inventing new solutions.
Build a prototype of best design. Use your alternative analyses to choose the design that best meets criteria considering the constraints, then build a prototype. A prototype is the first full scale and usually functional form of a new type or design.
Test and evaluate the prototype against important design criteria to show how well the product meets the need/goal.Develop a test plan describing what you will test, how you will test, and how you’ll perform analysis. You must test your prototype under actual or simulated operating conditions.
Analyze test results, make design changes and retest. Testing may disclose some deficiencies in your design. Make corrections and retest OR prepare an analysis of what went wrong and how you intend to fix it.
Product Testing Project minimum quality requirements [This type of project is open to students in grades 6 -8 only].
1. A PROJECT LOGBOOK is mandatory.
2.Clearly identify what kind of item you plan to test.
(For example, hair conditioner brands, instant cell phone chargers, air fresheners, etc.)
3. Define a test group of at least three similar items (Grades 6 and 7) or five or more similar items (Grade 8).
(For example, 3-5 brands of hair conditioner will be tested including these: Johnson & Johnson, Wal-Mart, Suave).
4. Include test criteria that:
• Defines what will be measured.
(For example, the amount of static electricity produced on the hair after product use will be measured).
• Describe how you will take measurements.
(For example, the experimenter will wash her hair with the same type of shampoo followed by one of the hair conditioners. Hair will be blown dry using a medium setting of the hair dryer. An inflated latex balloon will be rubbed on the hair for 5 seconds. The balloon will be held 4 cm over a glass plate containing 100 paper punch dots. The number of paper dots that bounce up and cling to the balloon will be counted. The experiment will be repeated 2 more times with the same conditioner. The experiment will then be repeated with each of the other conditioners 3 times total. Results will be compared).
• Report measurements in metric units, when possible.
• Define criteria for "the best" (cleanest, largest, coldest, etc.).
(For example, the hair conditioner with the least amount of static electricity as determined to be the best by the least amount of paper dots picked up from the plate).
• Repeat the test more than once (recommended 3 times minimum) to see if your results are reproducible.
Demonstration Projects show or explain simply “how something works” . These types of projects are NOT accepted at ACSEF for competition.
(For example: You purchase a robot kit that allows the robot to throw baseballs. You put it together and show what it does at the science fair. Why is this not allowed? Because YOU did not design or program the robot or its action. Someone else did. …read below…
**A demonstration often can be turned into an experimental science project by asking how something (another factor) affects the functioning of the item. **Also, if a student likes to build things, a demonstration might become an engineering project.
(For example: For a science research project you could take the robot that throws baseballs…and instead - What if you asked this question for an experiment: What effect would changing the size, or weight or some other aspect of the ball being thrown by the robot were to be tested?
(For example: For an engineering project you could take the robot and re-program it to do some other new task – for instance instead of throwing balls you could program it to pick up balls in a quick manner or anything different from what it already “knows” how to do.